Paperback $45, Hardcover $60, Kindle $11.99
Michael John Wood, Practicing Peace: Theology, Contemplation and Action,
Wipf & Stock, 2022.
Reviewed by Ted Witham
Michael Wood’s eloquent new book aims to show how the non-violent practice of peace arises directly from God’s nature: God is love, and so we are to treat each other and all creatures lovingly.
The Rev’d Michael Wood, former Chaplain to The University of Western Australia, and a long-term priest in the Diocese of Perth, has written Practicing Peace as a handbook for peace-making, using, among others, the insights of Open Space Technology.
Practicing Peace emphasises the New Testament concept of a Christlike God; that God is in every way a peacemaker as was Jesus himself. Wood writes the clearest exposition I have read on René Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry. We reflect the desires of others and want what they want, creating a conflict between people that can be overcome by ‘recognizing and releasing’ the conflict.
The second part of Practicing Peace is a handbook for peace. We engage in contemplative practices in order to shine a light on our own disoriented desires. We then listen to each other to create an agenda, share assessments of the situation and options for a more peaceful way forward, and commit to trying those options, a process Wood calls ‘collaborative emergent design’.
While the theology of Practicing Peace is profoundly Christian, the insights into peace-making can be used by any people of good will.
Each section of this book is written with a beautiful clarity and is summarised in a series of appendices and charts which turn the declarative theology into useful visuals. An extensive bibliography rounds out the book. West Australians will note references to local authorities and activities – like salsa dancing at Scarborough Beach!
Michael Wood’s book contains much for Christian leaders to mull, and more importantly, practise! All Christian leaders including clergy in formation and clergy in parishes will find here a way of Christlike leadership that will attract others to the dance. I wish I had this wise book when I served parishes and a not-for-profit!
Practicing Peace is a profoundly hopeful book. ‘Imagine the church,’ Wood writes, ‘as constituting an international academy for peace, focused on the Christlike God, shaped by contemplative prayer, and practicing the art of dialogue. This could be a small contribution that Christians could make to the world.’ (223)
Practicing Peace is itself a substantial contribution to a more peaceable world.